Buxton: 'This place just means a lot'

Pineda debuts strong in rain-shortened game vs. Red Sox

March 6th, 2021

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins haven't been shy about handing out contract extensions to members of this young core, with Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sanó all locked up to deals for the foreseeable future. Byron Buxton would love to be next on the list.

"Of course I would love an extension," Buxton said. "Obviously, I've been blessed to stay with this one team in my career, so to be able to put on this jersey and go out there every day, it's something that many guys can't do. I want to be one of those guys that was there with that one team. This place just means a lot."

Buxton said Saturday that his representatives had engaged with the Twins regarding a possible extension in the last few days, but he wasn't sure of how far the talks had progressed.

With that said, Buxton's case remains far more difficult than those of the others with extensions already in hand because of his extreme raw talent alongside his pockmarked injury history and the ups and downs of his production and profile at the plate over his six-year career with the Twins, which could lead to difficulty in the sides agreeing on a price.

There's the upside of being the Platinum Glove Award winner in 2017 who also clubbed 16 homers en route to posting a 5.0 WAR, but Buxton's offensive profile could be tougher to predict considering his '20 season saw him drift more to the extreme of higher power, but much lower on-base ability, with two walks in 135 plate appearances -- alongside a career-best .577 slugging percentage.

And this discussion wouldn't be complete, of course, without bringing up the well-documented injury history that has plagued Buxton's career, including wrist and thumb issues, migraines, a broken toe, concussion symptoms and most recently, the left shoulder subluxation and labrum tear that caused him to miss time in both 2019 and '20. He has appeared in more than 92 games just once in six years.

"I can't really push the issue there and say that just because I'm hurt, I'm going to sign," Buxton said. "I don't give a damn about how many times I've been injured. It's what I do on the field, and I know I'm going to be on the field. It's just one of those things where you can't wait to see what happens."

Buxton will earn $5.125 million this year and is slated for free agency following the 2022 season. He's aware that all of these factors could get in the way of his signing, and he's not letting these thoughts impact him too much other than in his continued addition of muscle to pad his frame. He showed up to Spring Training this season with 10-15 more pounds of muscle on his frame, manager Rocco Baldelli said, and Buxton is just happy to be on the field with his teammates, extension or no extension.

"Money doesn't mean nothing to me," Buxton said. "I go out there, I play baseball for the fun of it. It's the passion and the love that you have for the game. You don't go out there to play for money. If you go play for money, you won't be worth nothing. It's just one of those things where if the time comes and I'm busting up and we get a contract extended, that's great."

Pineda dazzles in spring debut
Depending on how you look at it, Michael Pineda threw a perfect game on Saturday.

He retired all six batters he faced in his spring debut -- including four consecutive strikeouts -- before the game was called after two innings due to rain with the Twins leading over the Red Sox at JetBlue Park, 2-0. Pineda's slider had strong movement and his fastball velocity was at regular-season levels -- around 91-92 mph -- as he completed his appearance by inducing a groundout from former teammate Marwin González.

"He was really efficient," Baldelli said. "Threw the ball well, spun the ball very well today. Got some swings and misses. He was really sharp. He’s looked sharp from the beginning of camp, so it was just more of the same for him. It was a great time to get him out of there."

Twins, Red Sox halt matchup due to rain
Baldelli was thinking about getting Pineda part of a third inning before working Alex Colomé into the game, but the weather made any decision-making moot. The intense rain that picked up after the second inning caused Baldelli and Red Sox skipper Alex Cora to discontinue the contest following a brief meeting with the umpires.

Instead of getting work for Colomé and Cody Stashak at the Twins' facility across town, the club will instead opt to give their players the rest of the day off and fit that missed work into the schedule for Sunday, when the Twins will host the Rays ahead of Monday's off-day.

"I think everyone got together and just pretty simple, just didn’t want to go out there, take any chances in the rain," Baldelli said. "It started to come down pretty good at some point and then whether you’re talking about your pitchers out on the mound or your position players running around out there ... it’s just not worth the risk."

Twins bid goodbye to Odorizzi
The Twins career of Jake Odorizzi appears to be over for now, following reports on Saturday from MLB.com's Mark Feinsand and others that the right-hander has a two-year deal with a player option with the Astros. Odorizzi -- who posted a 4.11 ERA over three seasons with Minnesota, including the lone All-Star nod of his career in 2019 -- took a while to find a landing spot following an injury-riddled and disappointing '20 season.

"I’ve always loved working with him," said Baldelli, who has known Odorizzi for a long time, dating back to their days with Tampa Bay. "He’s been a really good player, and he’s also a really good guy. So I’m happy for him. I think he’s found a good landing spot on a good, competitive team. It all worked out, and he can get out there and hit the field, which is what he wants to do."

Up next
Josh Donaldson could make his long-awaited spring debut when the Twins take on the Rays in a 12:05 p.m. CT matchup on Sunday at Hammond Stadium. It’s no surprise that Donaldson has been held out of game action this long, considering the Twins said that he’d likely be eased into both Spring Training and regular-season action to help keep his calves healthy over the length of the season. Left-hander Lewis Thorpe will make the start for Minnesota. Catch all the action on MLB.TV or listen on MLB Audio.